Latest news from the Thames Path
Hi, my nameís Jos Joslin and I work with a small team based in Oxfordshire taking care of the 150 miles of the Thames Path that are upstream of London, whilst Walk London currently looks after the Trail as it travels through the capital. Iíve known the River Thames all my life as it was one of my childhood playgrounds, so you can imagine how pleased I was when our team, which was already managing The Ridgeway, took on the management of the Thames Path after it opened in 1996.
All National Trail managers think their own Trail is unique, and of course the Thames Path is no different! Itís a wonderful route for any walker to visit as I canít imagine thereís a person alive who doesnít find walking alongside water wonderfully relaxing, but itís especially great for those who find some Trails just too strenuous Ė itís basically level, falling just 110m from its start at the source of the river to its finish at the Thames Barrier.
Because of that, we devote lots of our effort in trying to make the Thames Path as accessible to as many people as possible. Colleagues have done sterling work in encouraging and persuading landowners to allow us to replace stiles with quality gates (15 in the last year) and, although the Trail is prone to flooding during winter months, we do our best to try to keep the path surface free of mud. Working in partnership with the Environment Agency we have also published 12 Ďeasyí routes along the length of the Trail that are accessible to many people with mobility problems.
Photograph: Katrin Purkiss, Natural England
Although itís great to have a path next to the river, that also gives us our biggest headache. Inevitably in places the river wears away the bank at the base and often with little warning a stretch of bank will collapse, perhaps only a metre or two at a time, but enough to close the Trail for safety reasons. We then have to find an alternative route to sign people around the problem whilst permissions to repair the bank are sought and funding obtained, or negotiate with the landowner to move the path back from the bank slightly. Recently a generous landowner near DorchesterĖon-Thames has allowed us to move the path back 6m along a particularly vulnerable 300m stretch of river bank, and in another location a section of bank was repaired quickly by working in partnership with Oxfordshire County Councilís countryside service.
Photographs of bank collapse before and after: Oxfordshire County Council
Much of the work on the Trail goes relatively unnoticed. I doubt many people are aware that the vegetation along huge lengths is cut 3 times a year, much of it by our irreplaceable volunteers. We currently have around 300 people signed up to our volunteer scheme (working on both The Ridgeway and Thames Path) and without them weíd be hard-pressed to maintain the Trail. Those that regularly monitor sections of the Path are our eyes and ears, others participate in maintenance tasks all year round, whatever the weather and most days of the week, and yet others give their time and enthusiasm to lead guided walks that take place throughout the year. Itís hard to thank them enough.
From the increase in visits to our website this summer (up 27% on last year) it certainly seems that more people have holidayed at home in the UK this year. Hopefully those that visited the Thames Path have enjoyed themselves, will encourage others to visit, and perhaps will visit another part of the Trail at a later date.
Jos Joslin, Thames Path National Trail Officer